One unexpected benefit of the three action system


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It occurred to us the other night that one of our groups (which only has two players) may be able to adopt PF2's 3-action system and just grant the PCs four actions per round each (or five, but I suspect four will be a significant boost).

In most systems we either have to heavily houserule to keep two PCs viable or run two PCs each (which I find deeply unsatisfying). I'm hopeful that tweaking the action economy this way may make running a two player game a little more feasible.


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Nice idea. It will be interesting to see how it works for small tables.

I’ve wondered about something similar but from a monster perspective. With single bad guys being difficult to use in PF1 (I find the fights either tend to be too easy or in boosting the CR of the monster you end up with powers that a group can’t yet counter) increasing their number of actions may balance out the fights without needing a high CR. Enabling the single bad guy to be a more workable option.


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Be very careful with this. Increasing the action economy is a huge boost to player power. A fourth action is probably plenty.

Spells, attacks etc are being designed around the three-action-one-reaction system. Allowing a fourth action lets them do things that just wouldn't otherwise be possible, such as casting two 2-action spells in the same round. That enables combos, such as a spell that nerfs the opponent's will save followed by a mind-affecting spell that would otherwise be unlikely to succeed. It opens up options for a single player to utterly end a powerful enemy in a single round.

It's perhaps a little early to know for certain, but how would you balance the dropping attack bonus on iterative attacks?


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I would consider giving the extra actions later in the round, at initiative -20, and never more than 3 at a time. This is pretty much how mythic boss monsters work in PF1.


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I assume there'll be a version of the Haste spell in the game? It's worth looking at how that's balanced.


sadie wrote:
I assume there'll be a version of the Haste spell in the game? It's worth looking at how that's balanced.

I think it would be very interesting if haste gave an extra action. Seems like it that might be worthy of a heightened version of haste. Say 6th level (tier/circle) spell.


sadie wrote:


It's perhaps a little early to know for certain, but how would you balance the dropping attack bonus on iterative attacks?

Just go with -15 for the fourth attack?


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That's a big change. The economy is designed around 3 actions. Spells are a good example, if you can cast 2 of your highest level spells in round 1 of the fight, the outcome will be altered decisively.

I would suggest another workaround: Allow monsters and NPCs only 2 actions per round. I understand that summoned monsters are already limited in that way (I think I got this from the GCP playtest), so this sort of thing is already factored in the design.


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Malthraz wrote:
sadie wrote:
I assume there'll be a version of the Haste spell in the game? It's worth looking at how that's balanced.
I think it would be very interesting if haste gave an extra action. Seems like it that might be worthy of a heightened version of haste. Say 6th level (tier/circle) spell.

I’m calling no chance of this. Haste was mostly a martial buff. Extra actions strongly favor casters.

- Apply metamagic to the strongest spells, those that take three actions. That means concealed Dominate.
- Cast two normal spells per round.
- Increase the power of Universalist Wizard’s chain casting by letting them move during it and cast three-action spells for free.

Meanwhile, martials by default get an extra attack at -15, or at -10 if they were raising a shield. It’d be useful for double Power Attack, but that really pushes certain builds.

My guess is increased move speed (or maybe move your speed as a free action once per turn), reduced iterative penalties, and possibly AC/reflex stuff, but they might be dropping that.

On-topic, though, casters will benefit a lot more from this as-is. You’ll want to figure out how to tweak martials’ attacks. Maybe the third attack doesn’t “count”, so it’s at -5 as well, and a fourth attack is at -10?


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It would be logical for Haste to give an extra action/attack at your highest attack bonus, not an extra one at -15 that wouldn't be likely to hit unless you roll a nat 20. And for that action to be ineligible for use in spellcasting.

Shadow Lodge

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I would think haste may give 5’ movement bonus, +1 attack bonus, AC bonus, initiative bonus at third level, heighten +2 to increase bonuses by 5’/+1. So at 9, +20’, +4 to others- too little? Heighten +1 would result in +35’, +7 to others, too much?

Not sure if an added action is a great idea. Where do you go with heightening the spell? Plus as evident above the extra action is a monumental bonus the PC action evonomy.

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Overall, I like the way in which 2nd edition seems to have more easy to adjust "dials" that GMs can manipulate for their campaigns.

Tweaking the action economy just requires a revision to the number of actions/reactions in a round (similarly, solo bosses might become more deadly by doing the same). Speeding or slowing level advancement is as easy as modifying the 1,000 XP base needed to advance. You can create grittier campaigns by shrinking the +Level proficiency bonus. And so on.

It remains to be seen how many unexpected side-effects such tweaks may have, but I'm pretty hopeful that this edition will make it very easy to modify games to fit different party sizes and campaign tones.


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sadie wrote:

Be very careful with this. Increasing the action economy is a huge boost to player power. A fourth action is probably plenty.

Spells, attacks etc are being designed around the three-action-one-reaction system. Allowing a fourth action lets them do things that just wouldn't otherwise be possible, such as casting two 2-action spells in the same round. That enables combos, such as a spell that nerfs the opponent's will save followed by a mind-affecting spell that would otherwise be unlikely to succeed. It opens up options for a single player to utterly end a powerful enemy in a single round.

It's perhaps a little early to know for certain, but how would you balance the dropping attack bonus on iterative attacks?

Yeah, I'm guessing 4 actions would be a big enough boost (for all the "two spells in a round" reasons people have listed, plus the potential to buff yourself, move and attack before the monsters can respond. I'm happy to boost them though - running a campaign with two PCs otherwise means they're always fighting pretty measly opposition.

In terms of the iteratives, I suspect my first attempt would be to adjust it to be -4 or -3 steps.


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gwynfrid wrote:

That's a big change. The economy is designed around 3 actions. Spells are a good example, if you can cast 2 of your highest level spells in round 1 of the fight, the outcome will be altered decisively.

I would suggest another workaround: Allow monsters and NPCs only 2 actions per round. I understand that summoned monsters are already limited in that way (I think I got this from the GCP playtest), so this sort of thing is already factored in the design.

This is a good alternative, I think (I suspect I'd need to let spells and perhaps some other actions "straddle" two rounds).


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Charlie Brooks wrote:

Overall, I like the way in which 2nd edition seems to have more easy to adjust "dials" that GMs can manipulate for their campaigns.

Tweaking the action economy just requires a revision to the number of actions/reactions in a round (similarly, solo bosses might become more deadly by doing the same). Speeding or slowing level advancement is as easy as modifying the 1,000 XP base needed to advance. You can create grittier campaigns by shrinking the +Level proficiency bonus. And so on.

It remains to be seen how many unexpected side-effects such tweaks may have, but I'm pretty hopeful that this edition will make it very easy to modify games to fit different party sizes and campaign tones.

I generally play more simple OSRICy games anyhow but I quite often use PF or 5E subsystems for various campaigns.

I'm definitely going to be reading over the action economy rules in PF2 with a view to incorporating them into 0E/1E. Similarly with the concept of four-step degrees of success.

I'm gradually warming to the idea of PF2 overall, but irrespective of how that ends up for me, I've definitely seen some bits and pieces of it I like.


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Steve Geddes wrote:
sadie wrote:

Be very careful with this. Increasing the action economy is a huge boost to player power. A fourth action is probably plenty.

Spells, attacks etc are being designed around the three-action-one-reaction system. Allowing a fourth action lets them do things that just wouldn't otherwise be possible, such as casting two 2-action spells in the same round. That enables combos, such as a spell that nerfs the opponent's will save followed by a mind-affecting spell that would otherwise be unlikely to succeed. It opens up options for a single player to utterly end a powerful enemy in a single round.

It's perhaps a little early to know for certain, but how would you balance the dropping attack bonus on iterative attacks?

Yeah, I'm guessing 4 actions would be a big enough boost (for all the "two spells in a round" reasons people have listed, plus the potential to buff yourself, move and attack before the monsters can respond. I'm happy to boost them though - running a campaign with two PCs otherwise means they're always fighting pretty measly opposition.

In terms of the iteratives, I suspect my first attempt would be to adjust it to be -4 or -3 steps.

-4 for regular, -3 for agile? That sounds like a good start, yeah. It helps both Power Attack twice in a round, and Rogue’s sneak attack setup.


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gwynfrid wrote:
That's a big change. The economy is designed around 3 actions. Spells are a good example, if you can cast 2 of your highest level spells in round 1 of the fight, the outcome will be altered decisively.

Easy solution: the 4th act can only be used for simple actions.


Midnight Anarch wrote:
gwynfrid wrote:
That's a big change. The economy is designed around 3 actions. Spells are a good example, if you can cast 2 of your highest level spells in round 1 of the fight, the outcome will be altered decisively.

Easy solution: the 4th act can only be used for simple actions.

eh, isnt that getting back into classifying actions territory again?


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I feel like Haste will do something like "you get another action which may only be used to step, stride, or strike."


Haste might give an action that only can be used to move, which would be enough to represent extra speed even without adding to movement speed itself.
A bonus move would be quite useful tactically. Also any +1 buffs it gives seem more powerful in PF2 so Haste would be quite fine without an extra melee attack.

3.0 Haste did give an extra action that casters could use, and it was a brutal spell that Sorcerers would spam even though it was a single target only. Casters can already cast two strong spells per round, as evidenced in one of the dev playtests. (I believe it was Chain Lightning and another blast spell. Cone of Cold?) Maybe he was Hasted?


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Planpanther wrote:
Midnight Anarch wrote:
gwynfrid wrote:
That's a big change. The economy is designed around 3 actions. Spells are a good example, if you can cast 2 of your highest level spells in round 1 of the fight, the outcome will be altered decisively.

Easy solution: the 4th act can only be used for simple actions.

eh, isnt that getting back into classifying actions territory again?

Pretty sure it's already going to function that way: simple actions, complex actions. (The Unchained action system with some improvements.)


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Allowing a single character to cast 2 spells in a round is no worse than allowing 2 characters to each cast 1 spell in a round. You can still pull off the same nerf-SoD combo, but it's simply that it takes fewer people to do it. And as that's the whole basis of the OP suggestion (smaller parties) what's the problem?


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Mudfoot wrote:

Allowing a single character to cast 2 spells in a round is no worse than allowing 2 characters to each cast 1 spell in a round. You can still pull off the same nerf-SoD combo, but it's simply that it takes fewer people to do it. And as that's the whole basis of the OP suggestion (smaller parties) what's the problem?

You could potentially have three characters casting 2 spells per round that way, moving it closer to the effect 6 characters could generate instead. It would also magnify the power level of spellcasters compared to melee types, possibly by quite a bit.

Having the 4th act available for simple actions is still potent -- it's the equivalent of permanent haste for PCs.

Dark Archive

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I don't see the 2 spells in one turn exploit as a problem - they still only have one set of spells to cast from, so casting multiple spells per turn (from slots, not cantrips and the like) would be a significant use of their powers that they can't keep up forever.

Still, if you're really worried about balance you could just give them more turns with their 2 characters instead of more actions per turn. One turn at normal initiative and one at -10 could work. I'm doing something similar with a 2-PC party soon.


As the OP mentioned, it's a party of two characters. Balance really isn't a concern. Just give the PCs an extra action and it will work fine.

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LuniasM wrote:

I don't see the 2 spells in one turn exploit as a problem - they still only have one set of spells to cast from, so casting multiple spells per turn (from slots, not cantrips and the like) would be a significant use of their powers that they can't keep up forever.

Still, if you're really worried about balance you could just give them more turns with their 2 characters instead of more actions per turn. One turn at normal initiative and one at -10 could work. I'm doing something similar with a 2-PC party soon.

If they're casters that would have them burning through limited resources at twice the rate. I think I like it better than more actions per round, but I'd give casters more slots and more spell points to compensate for the rate they're burning through stuff. I'd also look at whether resonance needed to be tweaked, with 2 PCs instead of 4 you probably only have half the amount of that that the system is balanced for.

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Ampersandrew wrote:
LuniasM wrote:

I don't see the 2 spells in one turn exploit as a problem - they still only have one set of spells to cast from, so casting multiple spells per turn (from slots, not cantrips and the like) would be a significant use of their powers that they can't keep up forever.

Still, if you're really worried about balance you could just give them more turns with their 2 characters instead of more actions per turn. One turn at normal initiative and one at -10 could work. I'm doing something similar with a 2-PC party soon.

If they're casters that would have them burning through limited resources at twice the rate. I think I like it better than more actions per round, but I'd give casters more slots and more spell points to compensate for the rate they're burning through stuff. I'd also look at whether resonance needed to be tweaked, with 2 PCs instead of 4 you probably only have half the amount of that that the system is balanced for.

Yeah, simply giving them more actions or more turns with no other benefits would burn through resources fast. Giving them more slots/Spell Points to compensate could work.


Well you could also give them more rest time. If they are burning through resources that much faster.


I genuinely don't see why Haste needs to be any more complicated than '1 extra action per round'. no need to change move speed, provide other bonuses, etc.

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CraziFuzzy wrote:
I genuinely don't see why Haste needs to be any more complicated than '1 extra action per round'. no need to change move speed, provide other bonuses, etc.

We actually now know what Haste does. To avoid it being overpowered for spellcasters (allowing two 'two action' spells in a round), it's limited to Stride and Strike actions...but yes, it just adds an action.


CraziFuzzy wrote:
I genuinely don't see why Haste needs to be any more complicated than '1 extra action per round'. no need to change move speed, provide other bonuses, etc.

Ditto.

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